Since arriving in New York in 1982, pianist, composer, arranger and educator Michael Weiss has forged a formidable career working in the bands of jazz legends Johnny Griffin, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, George Coleman, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath and the Heath Brothers, Frank Wess, Charles McPherson, Jon Hendricks, Lou Donaldson, Junior Cook/Bill Hardman, as well as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Mingus Epitaph Orchestra. Weiss' fifteen year association with Griffin, yielded four recordings and annual tours in the USA and around the world. He has also performed with Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Clark Terry, Clifford Jordan, Gary Bartz, Phil Woods, Pepper Adams, Joe Lovano, Ron Carter, David Newman, Barry Harris, Randy Brecker, Tom Harrell, Jimmy Cobb, Gerry Mulligan, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Wilder and other high profile jazz recording artists. Weiss is one of only a handful of musicians from his generation to have accumulated such a wealth of performing experience with dozens of jazz icons.
As a band leader, Weiss has headlined at the Village Vanguard, Detroit Jazz Festival, Detroit Symphony Hall, Smithsonian Institution, and major New York venues such as the Blue Note, Jazz Standard, Birdland, Bradley’s, Iridium, Sweet Basil and Merkin Concert Hall. Reviewing his Vanguard debut, the New York Times wrote that Weiss "demonstrated a strong sense of leadership and organization" exhibiting "sensitivity and logic, along with crisp control." Television appearances include CBS-TV’s Nightwatch with Charlie Rose and PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center: The City of Jazz. NPR radio appearances include PianoJazz with Marion McPartland, Making the Music with Wynton Marsalis, Jazzset, and the Jazz Piano Christmas Special. Weiss was a 1989 prizewinner in the Thelonious Monk Institute's International Piano Competition.
As a composer Weiss is a two-time Doris Duke/Chamber Music America New Works grant recipient and was the grand prize winner of the 2000 BMI/Thelonious Monk Institute's Composition Competition presented to him by Wayne Shorter. Weiss’ compositions reveal eclectic influences from the worlds of jazz, 20th Century classical and even rock -- from Wayne Shorter to Alexander Scriabin to Led Zeppelin. Weiss focuses on extended forms, thematic development and attention to detail. "A greater percentage of composition in the mix is crucial to keeping Jazz moving forward," explains Weiss. "The solo after solo bit on the same chord changes is becoming a worn out model. This doesn’t mean giving up on jazz’s foundations. I’m interested in incorporating improvised solos within a piece like characters in a play or perhaps as the narrator between scenes. I’m always looking for fresh ways to expand my material.”
Weiss' four recordings as a leader on the CrissCross, SteepleChase, DIW and Sintra labels have been hailed by the critics. His 1987 debut, Presenting Michael Weiss was Stereo Review's "Best of the Month." His recording, "Soul Journey" features a collection of nine original compositions for septet:
"Weiss' shrewd writing and arranging skills are as clearly in view as his sleek piano work" – The New Yorker
"Weiss has a rich palette of composing devices at his command" – Downbeat
"Warmth, integrity and above all, originality" – JazzTimes
“the song simply smoke” – Detroit Free Press
"Weiss is a vital talent with something important to say" – All About Jazz
"Weiss’ compositions take on different shapes, great complexity and fresh perspectives" — Washington Post
“About as close to perfection as a recording can get....If there is truly justice in our world, this should be a Grammy nominee.” – Jazz Improv
"A prodigious bop-and-beyond pianist and composer.... consummate musicianship and alluring improvisations" – The Star Ledger
“This music lives and breathes freshness and exhilarating originality. The individual selections are strong and attractive enough, to still be played as jazz vehicles in 10, 20, or even 50 year’s time.” – Jazz Journal
As a sideman Weiss appears on recordings of Johnny Griffin, Frank Wess, Charles McPherson, Steve Grossman, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Ronnie Cuber, Louis Smith, Dick Oatts and others.
As an educator Weiss has held faculty positions at Indiana University, Hartt College of Music, Queens College. He has presented master classes and clinics at the Eastman School of Music, Berklee, Juilliard, University of Michigan, Temple University, as well as the Jazz Educators (IAJE) and JazzImprov conferences. Weiss has also worked with several high schools with award winning jazz programs across the country. Weiss aims to relay his bandstand experience through his master classes with a host of clinic topics that directly address the standards and performance practices required of a professional jazz musician.